‘Inflammation in the membrane. Inflammation in the brain!’* OCD


‘Brain Inflammation Discovered in Those With OCD.’

A study in Canada by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) had demonstrated for the first time, that brain inflammation is 30 per cent higher in those of us with OCD than for those without. It is even higher if you complete an extreme number of compulsions.

The reason why this brain imaging study was significant for me was because it meant that OCD was a biological condition and not just a behavioural one; something vehemently denied by many psychologists and psychiatrists. If you have OCD this is important, because for some of us SSRIs and other treatments and medication have not worked in reducing our symptoms. Maybe this is because inflammation is partly to blame? How can symptoms be controlled if the brain is not working effectively? Treating OCD with anti-inflammatory drugs, created especially for this purpose, may hold the key to tackling OCD.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. “This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.” **

Inflammation can be a positive function in the body. It tells us that our body has been damaged or is fighting off an infection; the infected areas will begin to swell as part of the natural healing process. However, surely in the brain, this is not such a good thing as it must also affect so many other cognitive functions and even cause depression, as CAMHS has proved in another imaging study. If the effects of the inflammation can be reduced, then there is hope that OCD can be minimised, because the brain will be able to concentrate on making new neural pathways rather than fighting off an infection. Thus, CBT would surely be more effective.

The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder… The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain. A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 per cent higher on average in these regions. Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness. **

The beauty of the study means that there is now a chance of simple blood-markers being made to measure the levels of inflammation, so that medication can be administered appropriately. The imaging study was also able to identify who had the highest levels of inflammation and this linked directly to those people who carried out the highest numbers of compulsions. Compulsions are what people with OCD do to relieve the anxiety that they are feeling. The PET scans showed that when people tried to stop doing their compulsions, their inflammation levels rose tangentially. Knowing this will mean that it’s possible to identify who will benefit the most from treatment with anti inflammatory medication. This inflammation may have begun after OCD started, or it may be the cause, but it’s there and must be hampering methods of treatment.

Dr Meyer concluded that:

“Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD. Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”

I hope that medical professionals in the U.K. take heed of this study, along that those we know and love. OCD is a complex condition that we can’t always control. However, I am now hopeful that, given the right conditions in my brain, CBT might actually work for me. I just pray the wait for targeted medication is not a long one. I can’t afford to lose any more friends.

*Title loosely based on Cypress Hill’s ‘Insane in the Brain.’

**Medical News Today, ‘OCD linked to inflammation in the brain.’ Tim Newman. 22nd June 2017.

CAMH: CAMH researchers discover brain inflammation in people with OCD http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/news_releases_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/current_year/Pages/CAMH-researchers-discover-brain-inflammation-in-people-with-OCD.aspx#.WVJeEnByHc0.twitterin.

 

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A letter from my OCD brain to me.


Dear You,

I don’t want to judge you any more. I don’t want to constantly say negative things to you and make you feel worthless. To be honest, talking negatively to you all day long is exhausting and I’m beginning to believe my own rhetoric.

What I really want to do is to be able to celebrate every time you achieve something; no matter how small. I want to be able to jump up and down, squealing with excitement, because you did something that you are proud of; even if no one else notices. I would like to dwell on the serenity felt each time you see a beautiful sunset and to let you dance without disturbance, when you hear your favourite song. I must stop sabotaging all these beautiful moments for you, and learn to be silent and present instead.

Above all, what I don’t want to do anymore, is to give you a hard time. I’m not a bully, I honestly do have your best interests at heart. Always. However, when you really need me to be there for you, I often let you down.

I’m not your nemesis, even though I may come across like that most of the time. I don’t want to harm you. Conversely, I want to be able to encourage you to eat healthily, sleep deeply and love regularly. Instead, all I seem to be able to do is to make you feel sad and the sadness makes you cry. I just come across as heartless and callous and this has to stop. If I don’t stop hurting you, then you will have spent most of your life believing that you have failed. That is not how I want you to live your life anymore.

I’m telling all of this to you now, because one day soon it will be too late to tell you how much I really love you; how much I am proud of you. After all, you have survived many traumas, yet I still tell you that you are a failure and that you are unlovable. What right have I got to judge you so harshly?

What I should be saying is that I love you unconditionally. I should be telling you that your smile is enough for me. I need to explain to you that when I see you laughing, and you are always laughing, that my heart melts with pride. You are brave, loyal and kind, yet I make you doubt these truths about yourself every single day.

I need to give you a break and encourage you to love yourself. Hell, I need to love you too!

I’m gonna try to do right by you from now on beautiful.

Love from,

Your Brain xxx

OCD, Starbucks and Snow


2013-07-26 23.42.54

I have been encompassed by a feeling of icy cold darkness for a very long time. It has been ever present, dictating my actions and infiltrating my dreams, whispering of disasters and dissolving my hope of recovery. It is called OCD. But no more. That’s not to say that I did not feel fear, because I did, but it was not my master. It did not make me cry.

Instead when the plane took off:

  • I did not begin to check the news for images of air disasters.
  • I was not haunted by hundreds of terrifying images of burning bodies.
  • I did not see myself battling through debris in search of a familiar face.
  • Nor did I see myself, in my waking dreams, at their funeral.
  • I refused to complete any research at all so that I could not look for evidence of violent attacks and hospitalisations.
  • I dwelled instead on thoughts of super sized doughnuts, Starbucks and snow.
  • I sat with fear all week and survived.

Birth and OCD


 stokpic.com

Today I sideways hugged my son’s godmother, we weren’t trying a new way of being affectionate, she is 9 months pregnant and I have put on weight. Again. We hugged sideways because we could not actually hug forwards, as our stomachs were protruding too much and our arms would not reach around each others’ middles!

However, after the hug I felt very emotional. Today is her due date and soon enough she will have a new life to love, nurture and protect. As much as I was overjoyed for her, I felt my eyes well up thinking that cancer and OCD had robbed me of the chance to have a second child.

I am not surprised that OCD took a grip on my life around pregnancy. I had a polyhydramnios birth- too much amniotic fluid in the womb. Living with this knowledge in the weeks leading up to an emergency c-section, utterly terrified me. I was told that I had to stay in hospital pre delivery for a few weeks and that I had to be closely monitored. If I gave birth too quickly, then the cord would wrap itself around my baby’s neck and cause suffocation. When my waters broke I was also advised what to do. I would need to crouch down on all fours immediately, no matter where I was, to prevent foetal asphyxiation. I imagined all the worst places to give birth on a regular basis and planned what to do in each scenario, down to the last detail. I was mortified, I was frightened and I above all I wanted my baby to be safe. Any mother would have felt the same, the difference being the severity and repetition of my thoughts.

All mothers have fears. But a mother with OCD has terrors. I constantly imagined my child dying over and over again. At 20 weeks I knew that he was a boy and had even named him. I read to him even in the womb, and our bond was as strong at 9 months as it is today, but I could not enjoy those final weeks because I was scared to death of losing him and/or dying myself. These were OCD thoughts. Vivid. Disturbing. But not real. Not totally anyway. They were based on a real scenario, but fear had exaggerated their dominance in my mind.

So yes I am overjoyed that soon I will have a little baby to hold, a tiny sweet smelling cheek to kiss and a warm hand to touch. It’s just that birth brings back memories for me that I wish were not so sad.